Something a little different for this morning.
Definitely something worth thinking about.
The #MeToo movement is a wonderful tool to highlight the havoc which sexual harassment plays on people's lives. However, I've had a fear that it could cause us to veer from one extreme to another i.e. from ignoring or belittling the victims of sexual harassment to presuming that everyone accused is automatically guilty.
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one, as this wonderful piece by Brendan O'Neill proves:
The “Weinstein contagion,” as a Guardian columnist refers to it, has seen members of Parliament branded sexual predators for such small fare as a fleeting hand on a female journalist’s knee or flirtatious letters written 20 years ago. Earlier this month, a Welsh Labor MP, Carl Sargeant, committed suicide. He stood accused of sexual misconduct. His party refused to tell him what the allegations were, and yet he was suspended from his job as a Welsh minister on the basis of them. Sargeant’s lawyers said the mysterious accusations had plunged him into black turmoil. Although people refer to #MeToo as a progressive movement, it is starting to look like an exercise in public shaming, a rash extrajudicial application of stigma to supposedly wicked individuals. We need to recover the benefit of the doubt, just like Piven said.
Some have argued that the presumption of innocence is a legal standard that does not apply in everyday life. The law must not prejudge someone, but we can. In fact, that’s how Mitt Romney framed his condemnation of Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate who stands accused of molesting teenage girls.
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” Romney wrote on Twitter.
In a narrow sense, that’s perfectly true. But Romney’s line of argument can lead us astray. Legal standards aren’t cold, abstract ideas. They embody what communities over time have agreed is a more civilized way of doing things. People are brushing aside the presumption of innocence as mere legalism so they don’t have to feel bad when they tweet: “George Takei is a pervert.” They’re saying that while judges should exercise restraint, mere mortals don't have to. What spectacularly low self expectations.